“Love Me Anyway”
I haven’t written in a long time for various reasons, but I feel like reaching out at the moment. So many people have connected with me about how much Celeste meant to them, and how much some of my commentary on our story meant to them, that I feel like writing.
On Saturday, the day she passed, our daughter, Emerson, and I were driving around in my truck. The song Love Me Anyway by P!nk , featuring Chris Stapleton, came on. The writers (Alecia Moore (P!nk), Allen Shamblin, Thomas Douglas) have created a magical illustration about the doubts of someone in love on the precipice of committing to that love for what might be a lifetime. This song has had great meaning for me in the several months it has been out, but it struck me especially profoundly that day, at that moment. As I have a tendency to do, I took the teachable moment to instruct my daughter on a life truth.
When you meet someone special, you should contemplate these questions as you consider spending the rest of your life with that person. The truth of it is that none of us truly know whether we are capable of delivering on our vows at the time we commit to those vows. We simply haven’t been through sickness and health, richer or poorer, until death do us part. How can we possibly know what our experiences will lead to? To be sure of your promise to those vows is a great gift. It is a rare combination of circumstances that is worthy of awe. It isn’tt a simple factor of will. It is a beautiful confluence of time, place, people, and circumstance that creates a gift called love.
I experienced this gift in one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. I was trying to nap in my bed. I woke up and my sister-in-law, Heather (she’s known as H in our house), came into the door frame of my room. She was escorting Celeste by the torso as Celeste valiantly labored toward the shower, her refuge for pain.
As Celeste moved forward, it was obvious that she wasn’t stable on her feet. She was in danger of collapsing and hurting herself. We’d experienced this the night before as she and I worked to relieve herself in the bathroom. So we helped her lie stably on the bed, but she would not give up on the shower. So we executed a plan. I got a stable stool for the showed. Then I stood in front of her and wrapped her arms around my neck. H held her around the torso from behind. We inched forward, one short step at a time. Our interlocked trio took one effortful step after another as Celeste inched toward the shower. We took special care at the threshold to the bathroom and the shower. I wasn’t sure she could make it, but true to her nature, she was not to be denied. She stepped the best she could, and we boosted her shrunken leg over those thresholds. Eventually, excruciatingly, that strong, valiant woman took one shaky step after another into the shower. As we entered the shower, I took off my shirt, stepped into the running water, and we embraced while H scrubbed her clean. After rinsing and toweling dry, she sat on my lap, hung tight to my neck while I wrapped my arms around her torso, and we sat on the stool and rested before starting the 20 foot journey back to the bed. On the bed we dressed and tucked in and finally rested for good. It was obvious she was spent, yet she would never admit to it. To admit it was to admit defeat, and that wasn’t something my love was willing to do.
Just a few hours later we held her as the end of the world came.
I claim no rank in Celeste’s life. Her parents loved her first. She and her sister loved each other uniquely. She loved her nephews with everything she had. She loved our daughter as much as anyone has ever loved another, to the moon and back as we say. And she loved her friends with as generous a heart as we’ve ever seen. I don’t know where I rank in there, and I truly don’t care. It is simply adequate, and wholly satisfying, to have loved her and to have been loved in return. Somehow, some way, I carved a unique place in her life. Somehow, despite a lack of solid employment or any type of financial stability, I was able to convince her to marry me, and we made a life together, as wonderful a life as I could have ever imagined. And yet, as she passed, she asked for me, and we held each other at the end of the world. To know that I could do that is enough. Enough for what you might ask? It was enough. And if you don’t understand that, you don’t understand the question.
Even if you see my scars, Even if I break your heart, If we’re a million miles apart, Do you think you’d walk away?
I wouldn’t. I didn’t. We all have scars. They give us character.
Are you lost in all the noise? Even if I lose my voice, Flirt with all the other boys, What would you say?
I’d say I still love you with all my heart. What is noise when love is present? What is a voice when your soul speaks without words. I could love you anyway. And I did.
Could you? Could you? Could you love me anyway?
I could. I would. I did.
Is it for better or for worse, Or am I just your good-time girl? Can you still hold me when it hurts, Or would you walk away?
Yes. I loved you through it all. And I’d have continued to do so as long as it took.
Even if I scandalize you, Cut you down and criticize you, Tell a million lies about you, What would you say?
I would say I would love you anyway. We all hurt at times. We all say things we don’t mean. I love you despite those mistakes. I know you would take it back if you could. I grant you this understanding, as you do me.
Could you? (Could you still love me?) Could you? (Pick up the pieces of me?) Could you? (Could you still love me?) Could you love me anyway?
I would pick up the pieces of you, literally and figuratively. I have. You would have done it for me. To know that we could do that for each other is the ultimate show of love.
Could you? (Will you catch me when I fall?) Could you? (And we rise above it all) Could you? (Will you hold me when it hurts?) Like it’s the end of the world? Could you? Could you? Could you? Could you?
I could. I could. I could. I could. As you’d have done for me, I caught you when you fell, and I carried you as long as I could. And when I fell from exhaustion, we rested. We regrouped. We got up again, and again, and again, until one of us just couldn’t go on. We rose above it all until the one moment we couldn’t. Then I held you as it hurt and eased your pain as much as I could, until it was the end of the world. I did. I did. I did. I did. And I only had one regret. I only wished that you’d have been able to do that for me instead.